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Vas-XApr 29, 2024 3:14:00 PM7 min read

Conversation with VAS-X

I’m having a conversation with Craig Palmer who is CEO of VAS-X and discussing their approach to business in Africa. Craig, can you tell me more about VAS-X?

With over 20 years of experience, South African-based VAS-X has established itself as a trusted partner to customers, delivering unparalleled value and a competitive advantage. We pride ourselves in consistently exceeding customers’ expectations and empowering our staff. We are immensely proud of our Graduate Program, delivering stellar results to both us and the software community.

VAS-X has a proven track record in Africa and Asia Pacific with customers spanning Mobile Network Operators (MNO), Mobile Virtual Network Enablers (MVNE), Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO), Internet Service Providers (ISP) and Fixed Line Network Operators.

Our product portfolio comprises Billing and CRM, voucher management and provisioning solutions, which are cloud-ready and supported by our service portfolio including reporting, monitoring, managed services, technical solution delivery teams and system integration.

I’m now looking to take this to the next level, through a revised roadmap which we believe will help bridge the digital divide. This is a key area of demand from telco customers right now, and helps telcos looking to find new revenue streams.

Let’s use Azure cloud services as an example. If you’re a business customer, why do you need to go to Azure to get another account? Why can’t you go to your telco operator and say, I want a single account, and you provide me the Azure services? We’ve completed the POC of this product for one of our customers and are busy working on a further evolution.

The digital divide in Africa is something that’s existed for an awfully long time, and how to speed up closing it has certainly been an area of focus. Whichever way you look at it, it’s an expensive process, and takes time. However, if you can provide connectivity to all the semi-rural and the rural areas that are currently lacking, then you can push a lot more services to them, which will ultimately benefit the operator as well. They are all under pressure when it comes to revenue, so anything that boosts that or increases ARPU will help. The service has to be stable and reliable though, or you risk a lot of unhappy customers. So operators must consider how they ensure that stability is in place.

If you have a look at the OSS/BSS platform and the voucher management system that we have, we know where we sit. We’re a tier two OSS BSS provider focused on the African continent MNOs, MVNOs and MVNEs which is where we pitch our products and services. 

A powerful and fully integrated OSS/BSS platform processing 21 billion transactions per month, manages USD40 million postpaid billing annually, including third party charging management to further increase our customers revenue and is utilised across MNOs, MVNOs, MVNEs, ISPs and PSTNs

Our Voucher management platform manages 720 million electronic and physical vouchers, with an annual value of USD167m, while our seamless integration with 94+ third party integrations allows us to streamline processes, reduce barriers and offer unparalleled flexibility.

Our offering is all around uptime, how much customer data you have, how quickly you can turn customer care problems around, how you make sure their bolt-on is 100% correct, as well as the first time they use the recharge. This is where we’ve got a proven track record with the customers that we have.

We’re not going to reinvent the wheel, it’s about VAS-X giving you a cost effective improved service. We’ve just launched a new system with one of our customers on a trial basis where one logs a ticket which immediately triggers a WhatsApp and voice call to the engineer. If that engineer is on standby, or is out, he must still acknowledge the call and then go into the system and resolve the issue right there to avoid escalations. You’ve then cut that lag down, which means your customer is getting a better experience, your customer satisfaction level is going to improve and, in theory, you should be able to generate more revenue, or at least retain the customer because they’ve had a better experience. The technology is good and we’re looking around the service capability to show how we differentiate.

That’s an important differentiator, not just for Africa, but anywhere. If the technology is similar, you’ve got to have your point of difference. If your point of difference is service and support, then that always has value. It’s a rule of thumb, isn’t it, that every time you get a support call, it costs something like $10, as soon as the phone rings, and in Africa, that’s a big cost. If you’re progressing down that route, then that’s a good point of difference.

One of our customers managed to reduce their average activation time from eight minutes to sub five seconds with us. That’s under five seconds from the time they hit send until the time it’s provisioned all the way down through the network and the customer has their SMS to confirm activation. They are now able to service nearly 2000 more customers a day just as the result of that initial interaction.

One of the benefits of being part of the Lumine Group is being able to leverage all 24 companies that sit under its umbrella for our customers and partners. If they’re happy with the OSS/BSS but want a charging system, CRM or mobile money platform, we can do that. Customers can contract with a single entity but pull from 23 resources with over 2000 business processes. This provides the customer with a much bigger benefit and the end subscriber with a great product set.

I think what you’ve come up with is a real point of difference, which should stand you in good stead going forward. Another point that I found interesting is your graduate programme out of South Africa, perhaps you could tell us a little bit more about that.

What we’re looking to do is create a sustainable and viable pipeline of engineers coming into the organisation. This really helps us with resourcing when someone leaves, and means we don’t have a 3-6 month delay to find someone new. Continuity for the business means continuity for the customer. But we also believe that we’re uplifting the community, investing back in South Africa and its students and giving them a pipeline into their future world.

Every year we look to bring two to six graduates on board. For the first two months, it’s just training – they get to understand what we’re about and what our product is about. Then we introduce them to the various levels of software that we work with and the code that we’re writing before letting them get hands on across three key areas – managed service operations, professional services and research and development – spending five weeks working in each of those areas to help them determine where they are best suited. At the end of the process, if they’re successful, they get promoted straight into a junior developer role. We’ve still got four graduates that have been with us since the start of the programme in 2007, which is good.

I wish you luck with that programme. It’s really interesting. A final question for you. with everything that you’ve said so far, where do you see VAS-X in 12 months’ time? Let’s say we’re having another conversation in a year’s time, what do you expect to have achieved during that time? We’re on a drive to create and deliver new products to bridge the digital divide, take them to market and acquire new customers. We want to shape the way that we do business, not just in South Africa, but across Africa through stronger partnerships, stronger relationships, and leveraging what we have from a group perspective. Our aim is to take five products from the Lumine Group and bring them into the African market under the VAS-X brand. It’s really a four-pronged approach of continued improvement for existing customers, acquiring new customers, delivering new products and leveraging the group as a whole to bridge that digital divide and introduce new revenue streams.



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